Dead Space 3 Co-op: Are Two Heads Really Better Than One?

We explore the first four acts of Dead Space 3, and how adding another player does--or doesn't--affect the course of the adventure.

Electronic Arts recently came to San Francisco to show off the first four acts of Dead Space 3, so we eagerly jumped at the chance to play the upcoming action-horror game, both alone and with another player cooperatively. The portion we played represents only about an eighth of the game--hardly a fair representation of the whole experience. Nevertheless, it was hard not to notice the disparity between the groundbreaking co-op play described in EA's opening speech, and the demo's actual gameplay. Yet the playable chapters were thankfully grounded in the series' roots--a pleasant surprise considering the icy, cooperative, bro-talking demonstration on display at E3 2012.

At E3, fans were notably upset at the prospects of a cooperative-focused shooter that reminded them more of Lost Planet than it did of Dead Space or even Dead Space 2. Dead Space 3 is further following the path to full-on action--yet the opening chapters retain some of the atmospheric dread that made the original so beloved, so if you were worried that Dead Space was yearning to become Gears of War, there is still hope.

Yet let it be said: Dead Space 3 gets down to the action before it gets down to the suspense. As returning hero Isaac Clarke, your not-so-successful attempt at privacy on a lunar colony is disrupted by the Sovereign Colonies Armed Forces--that is, the SCAF. Isaac seems none too interested in their ongoing quest to destroy the powerful alien artifacts known as The Markers--at least, not until they tell him that Ellie Langford is involved in the project. She's missing in action, which is enough to get a clearly distraught Isaac back into the fray.

Necromorphs are hardly Isaac's first priority, however: Unitologist cultists are the greater initial threat, and the escape from the colony gets you right into the action, which culminates in a shootout on a moving locomotive. There were moments of pure atmosphere--televised cultist propaganda, a surprise activation of an animatronic figure--but this was action-game bravado, albeit good action-game bravado. Once on The Eudora, SCAF private Robert Norton's ship, Isaac and companions are off to seek Ellie and her crew, though it isn't long before the ship runs into danger, and you experience an on-rails zero-grav flight sequence (an effective set piece, certainly) before landing on the derelict Roanoke space station.

It's here that Dead Space 3 begins to feel like a Dead Space game. After a weaponcrafting tutorial, you navigate the eerie corridors of the Roanoke, shooting the limbs off lanky necromorphs, using kinesis to open doors and pull levers, and using stasis to slow the grotesque creeps to a more manageable pace. None of it is particularly frightening: the attempted scares come more or less when expected. The pulse can pound however, at least when trying to solve a generator puzzle while attacked by oncoming mutated freaks. There wasn't much to the weaponcrafting system at this stage, but the interface spoke to numerous possibilities of attachments and modifications.

Dead Space 3 introduces a new character, Sergeant John Carver, who functions as Isaac's co-op partner when two people play the campaign. On your own, an AI-controlled John doesn't tail you--only with another real player in the mix do you have a buddy at your side. EA and Visceral seem proud of their co-op play, and described how John and Isaac will experience different types of horrors from each other as they face dementia. The playable demonstration, however, didn't reflect these ambitions. There were great subtle touches that differed when adding another player to the mix: dialogue and cutscene tweaks, for instance, and adjustments to puzzle design. The difficulty level, too, was clearly changed to accommodate a duo. On the whole, however, adding an additional player was underwhelming: it was two people playing the same game together, and occasionally getting in the way of each other when traveling through tight corridors and descending ladders.

On the other hand, it wasn't until the end of the fourth act when Dead Space 3 began to reference Isaac's troubled past and his eerie ongoing connection to the Markers. By the time the pair make it to the icy planet Tau Volantis, there could be fascinating co-op thrills in store, but it was hard not to see Dead Space 3's opening hours as a missed opportunity to show how scares don't have to be sacrificed just because you share the experience. These 4 acts, however, are two people playing an action game together.

Dead Space 3 is reportedly a long game, however, so the John Carver experience could transform into a very different one from the Isaac Clarke experience. We'll have a full review for you in the coming weeks, which will closely evaluate both the solo and co-op angles. For now, it seems that Dead Space 3 fans have a lot to look forward to--but are still right to be cautious of promises still yet to be proven.

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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Discussion

164 comments
moldyspud
moldyspud

In co op do you share currency and upgrades or do you just fight for currency and nodes to get upgrades? I mean these are important things to note... why is no one saying these things...

SingletreeAve
SingletreeAve

Co-op with no split screen?  WTF? I can play with some random fool over the internet, but not with someone in the same room.  Could it have to do with the fact that online only co-op forces everyone to have their own copy of the game, Xbox Live Gold membership, and XBox console? 

vengefulwilberg
vengefulwilberg

You fans really need to stop your belly aching.  The game is fun and you still get to play alone.  This game is not like RE 6.  RE 6 was trying to do so many things that the focus was lost entirely.  Dead Space 3 on the other hand added some new stuff, still has some scary thrills, and you can play alone without an AI partner.  After playing both Dead Space 1 and 2 the scares wouldn't be all that new and shocking anyway.  Once you have seen enough scares I am sure you have seen them all.  More scares shouldn't really phase you after playing 1 and 2. Be open minded.  A lack of open minded gamers is going to ruin the gaming industry cause nothing will change if everything remains the same time and time again.

mjtplayer
mjtplayer

I'll have an open mind and give it a fair shot, on single player.  I'll only play co-op after I've gone through it - there's nothing scary about a 2 person shooter.

MrKirios
MrKirios

freakin EA you ruin everything you touch

Shinobi-Neo
Shinobi-Neo

I have finally seen the main characters face! XD I only played the first demo, the first one was scary, maybe because he was alone all the time.

Shmiity
Shmiity

Not happy. Not one bit.

skyhawk02
skyhawk02

I only played the singleplayer demo but thought it was incredibly dissapointing.  Not scary at all, I don't see how adding a co op buddy is going to fix that problem.

osirisx3
osirisx3

dont think it will make the game more scary

JekaTheAwesome
JekaTheAwesome

The demo was VERY awesome in both solo and co-op :D really expecting for this game! Too bad that there's no split-screen :P

IrishConnor94
IrishConnor94

Sounds like another series abandoning horror for action. 

The first game was pretty scary, up until a point. when you get to the point where your guns are strong enough to kill anything that jumps at you in 1-3 shots, and enough of the monsters drop health that you are never really almost dead and just hoping to make the next checkpoint, the game stops being scary to me.

PabloZm
PabloZm

The power of that little pistol is TOO DAMN HIGH

Nova_Prime_85
Nova_Prime_85

this feels like ME3 all over again for me

im having concerns over DS3 now.... :(

mellow09
mellow09

This game will be on sale for $40 three weeks after it is released.

Leistalhamr
Leistalhamr

This game is basically EA trying to compete with Capcom and the Resident Evil (now an action/shooter of dead things) market. I played the Xbox 360 demo last night, solo and the co-op. I agree the co-op is underwhelming. And shooting real humans is not very much fun. There are big explosions every other second. I enjoyed the game playing solo more, the other player DOES get in the way. Also, I don't know if it was because it was a pre-alpha demo or not, but the graphics and animations didn't look as good for some things, like stomping open boxes.

berserker66666
berserker66666

What is this? Survival horror or a goddamn shooter? "Are Two Heads Really Better Than One?" It's like asking if two penises are better one? It doesn't happen and neither should this. Jeez EA, why are you so stupid?

guidu28
guidu28

i will play this game alone to play the true dead space experience i just hope it dosen´t become resident evil 6 even in single players , if it does no more dead space for me

MasterOfSprites
MasterOfSprites

As much as I was interested at the idea of Co-Op horror, I am still worried they did it all wrong.  Especially when it comes to the microtransactions.

Finalninja447
Finalninja447

Remember the time when there wasn't such thing as universal ammo and that you had to collect only what you needed?

Remember when you had that gripping feel that you were ALONE and HELPLESS against hordes of Necromorphs?

Remember when there we're actually decent jumpscares and horror elements?

Remember when there was no weapon customization and only upgradable which would only barely helped you?

Remember when you we're getting empty on clips, you'd have to resort to Kinesis and melee?

Pepper Ridge Farm remembers...


Vodoo
Vodoo

I always viewed Dead Space as a take it or leave it franchise. I played and completed both games and thought they were decent, but I don't carry any expectations for Dead Space 3. When I eventually play it, I'll take it for whatever it decides to be, an action game or a horror game, and judge it on those merits. 

olegavi323
olegavi323

will probably skip this game :-/ 

Bostydasnoman
Bostydasnoman

well if co op doesn't work, you can play solo at least

Disturbed_88
Disturbed_88

I REALLY want this to be good. I'd love to enjoy this with my little brother!

POMEGRENADE451
POMEGRENADE451

Just you wait: February 4th will come, we'll sign in to GameSpot, and Kevin here will have given DS3 a 4 out of 10. It'll be an EXACT repeat of the RE6 disaster, but with fewer angry fanboys.

bluedeathking
bluedeathking

Hmm, kind of expected there be little different from co op and single player. This artical tell very little really but inform enought to kind of get the idea what going on. Maybe EA should add a different ending to the co op mode then the single player.

Overall I just wonder how they full this off compare to Resident Evil co op.

MAG--256
MAG--256

come on sony buy daksiders and have GOW team work on darksiders 3 

NTM23
NTM23

As you can see here, he's using the new crosshair, when you play the final game, if you like the way the old DS games had their crosshairs, go into the options and change it. Furthermore, shoot for the legs first, let them fall, and then go for the arms or head; don't try hitting the arms or head first. People so often ask "Which way do you have your Plasma cutter set up, horizontal or vertical?" The actual answer is both, depending on the way the body is situated. 

NTM23
NTM23

"Dead Space veteran" Yes? That's me.

NINEINCH-Tool
NINEINCH-Tool

introductions are completely important...there is something more compelling about progressing through a game that never retires its bag of tricks or never ceases to introduce new areas and sequences....this is partially where a lot of japanese survival style games succeed. Even if you've seen the same enemies or ideas over and over, they should be introduced and delivered in interesting ways as you make way to the game's finale. DS 1 had a great balance of these introductions through either cinematic sequences or coded surprises (reminding me of doom3)....DS2 relied very heavily on scripted sequences and cinematic entries; they were impressive but gave off the effect of a significantly more linear game. DO BETTER DS3.

Sushiglutton
Sushiglutton

Come on Kevin tell us what you really think, the game is scripted, cinematic crap :). After playing the demo all hype is gone. The jump scares happen within cutscenes making them not scary at all. When you walk into a room with new enemies a short cutscene presents them. There are Uncharted moments like climbing a car that is about to fall using QTE. You are not scared of enemies jumping at you, because they are everywhere.

This game is a disgrace to the brand (thanks EA!) and it would have been nice if Kevin said so directly instead of using formulations like: "but are still right to be cautious of promises still yet to be proven"

MetalRatex
MetalRatex

The demo was a letdown for me. Co-op wasn't any good.

USAPATRIOT21
USAPATRIOT21

I am still struggling with the controls on my ipad's deadspace game. How am I supposed to use a flat piece of glass to control a character in 3 dimensions while shooting?

wrestlingdude
wrestlingdude

Played the Demo, got the code from signing up.  I loved it, it was amazing.  I'm sold.  Already reserved.

pidow
pidow

I personally feel that playing DS, SP, is the way to go....MP,CO-OP, may be for some, but I have always played DS by myself and strongly feel I do not need help getting to the end of the game.  Whatever way one playes the game, just enjoy!.

IrishConnor94
IrishConnor94

@guidu28 

Trust, if there is enough going on to justify co-op, then chances are, you won't get the Dead Space experience, no matter which mode you play

BuyaPC
BuyaPC

@Finalninja447  And remember when there wasnt constant action there by diluting the experience so much that every thing (including bosses and mini bosses) just feel like fodder.                                                                                                                                                                                       And remember when the lack of constant enemies made a much more intense and scary atmosphere than annoying fights around EVERY corner                                                                                                                                                                                         I also remember when each of the hand full of guns with their own specialized ammo used to feel unique and different ones were better for certain situations rather than a million differnent combos of over powered guns all of which feel generic and boring and never needing to be switched because of the universal ammo

SergioMX
SergioMX

@Finalninja447 Honestly, Dead Space stopped being scary once you found out you could fight back, and unless you played the hardest difficulty, ammo conservation wasn't nearly as important. You were alone yes, but definitely NOT helpless. Hordes? You mean like 2 to 5? A fully upgraded plasma cutter got you a long ways too, and it became pretty obvious when necromorphs were going to appear. Still I like DS for what it is, not what you think it was.

franizarduy
franizarduy

@Finalninja447 remember the time when games studios were creatives and brought tons of joy with new ideas instead of milking the hell out of just one? i miss you braid.

NTM23
NTM23

@Sushiglutton First off, that wasn't the final product, and second, you were playing on normal. Jeez, so much pessimism from people over silly things.

L0mak
L0mak

@USAPATRIOT21 
Why on earth would you ever purchase a game like dead space for a platform like an Ipad?

POMEGRENADE451
POMEGRENADE451

@pidow I feel the same way: I'll play it through on Single Player first, then drag my poor friends through the co-op with me.

Bhemont
Bhemont

@pidow Nothing wrong with taking a look in to the MP after playing sp though for the story, if not for anything else.

vengefulwilberg
vengefulwilberg

@HazeChimp @Nova_Prime_85  

Exactly.  I played the demo and it was awesome.  After seeing the scares in Dead Space 1 and 2 nothing would phase you as much in 3 due to the fact that you will kind of know what to expect.  I am sick of fans acting like this.  Just be grateful that the game wasn't overkill like RE 6 even I thought RE 6 was awesome.  You even still get to play the entire campaign alone.

Finalninja447
Finalninja447

@Plasmid_king @Finalninja447  And that money was hard-earned and not found in every chests and once you bought something you were a hobo yet again? And if you actually needed to buy health you'd have to sacrifice some ammo for a small health kit (That could potentially be burned away for nothing?)

Yup, remember.


IrishConnor94
IrishConnor94

@Plasmid_king @MAG--256 

But they know how to make top notch graphics, they can design some freaky looking monsters too. Might be kind of cool to see what they would make of the game, I think

phatsanta
phatsanta

@NTM23 @Sushiglutton not the final product what?

pidow
pidow

@Bhemont @pidow Mp has too much cheating, name calling, under age people, people who are not there to have fun, but, to mess up the game for everyone else.  Don't get me wrong, I play mp some time, but when it not fun because on of 6 yrs olds and the other's, it makes me not play for a very long time.

NTM23
NTM23

@phatsanta The demo that people played wasn't the final product.